Central government’s Ministry of Culture, headed by Mahesh Sharma, sanctioned Rs. 2.25 crore for the three-day event of Sri Sri’s Art of Living Foundation.
According to NDTV, which claimed to have accessed the documents, the government funding was allotted to the Vyakti Vikas Kendra Trust in Bengaluru, run by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, as part of the Culture Ministry’s programme of Financial Assistance to Cultural Organisations.
Experts have expressed shock over the size of grant sanctioned by the central government to Sri Sri’s AOL foundation.
Sanjeev Bhargava from SEHER, which organises cultural events, told the channel that a grant worth more than Rs. 2 crore from the government for an individual event was unheard of.
He said, “Normally, the Ministry at best would agree to give Rs. 15-20 lakh. Bigger amounts are given as sustenance grants to organisations for an entire year.”
Sri Sri had actively campaigned for the BJP and Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and had even got his disciples to contest elections for the Lok Sabha.
Mahesh Giri, who won LS elections from Delhi, was a former director with the AOL. Giri is among the organising committee for the World Culture Festival to scheduled to start from 11 March on Yamuna banks.
Several minister including Uma Bharati and Babul Supriyo have thrown their weight behind the festival even though the National Green Tribunal highlighted several instances of violations.
Both the government and Sri Sri have also been criticised for deploying the services of the army for a private event. The criticis have described this as a gross abuse of power by Modi government.